For anyone of the perfect vintage certain songs are sacrosanct. You don’t touch them. It is forbidden. Cover them and you will be banished into the pit of long since forgotten nobodies and we can all pretend the abomination of a record never happened.
Then there’s Phil Collins. He doesn’t get covered much and if he does it’s samples by American hip hop artists that has us Brits raise a curved eyebrow to when the chorus to ‘Something Happened on the Way to Heaven‘ appears.
So naturally it is a person from over the pond that has chosen to cover the song with the drum bit that the gorilla in the Cadburys Dairy Milk advert did.
Arguably it is the most famous drum intro of all time, made more anticipated by the fact it appears more than half way through the song. Therefore it is incredibly difficult to separate this drum fill from the rest of the song, even that if you have the brass neck to cover ‘In the Air Tonight‘ it lives or dies by the quality of the reproduction of this.
Lucy Dacus is a beautiful singer, her contribution to boygenius is far from eclipsed by the stardom and fragility of Phoebe Bridgers or the raw, pained emotion of Julien Baker. The triumvirate is a perfect mix of all three of their different voices.
Yet this cover doesn’t quite land. The monotone delivery that she can muster is perfect for this song but the main issue is that the minimal instrumentation doesn’t have the suspense the original did. Phil kicked out a lot of duds but he produced an incredibly eerie and creepy song that almost makes it sound like he’s describing a murder or something equally sinister. Which then leads into the climactic thundering drums. (You can hear it now can’t you? In your head. Right now)
This recreation sits between two other covers, Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark’ and Wham’s ‘Last Christmas‘. The former is a modern but sympathetic take on the original that travels as well and sounds as vital as Bruce’s, right down to anticipating a young Courtney Cox to be hauled on stage in the video.
The latter, unfortunately, is a strange up tempo version of the melancholic original, that starts like a Tim Wheeler and Emmy the Great Christmas album opener with stereotypical bells and distorted guitar chord but kicks into an Avril Lavigne abomination of pop punk dross. See intro for a discussion about what not to touch when you consider a cover version.
The EP starts incredibly strong. ‘Fools Gold‘ is not a version of The Stone Roses classic but a gorgeous driving acoustic effort, with subtle piano like rain on a windscreen and repetitive bass drum like the car wheels hitting the road.
‘La Vie En Rose‘ is the Valentine’s standard, started in French, and repeated in English with a similar rolling rhythm to its predecessor.
We were introduced to ‘Mother and I’ earlier this year, a beautiful lament about her mother and her similarities and opposites as Taurus born women.
‘Forever Half Mast‘ pulls down the streamers and pops the balloons of the fourth of July celebrations and questions whether she has anything to be proud of currently as an American.
If you delved into this cold, by the end you may have picked up on the “holidays” theme. New Year, Valentines, Mothers Day, Independence Day, Halloween and of course, Christmas. If you think there is one missing, then, probably just because she wanted to record it, there’s Bruce Springsteen’s Birthday. Of course.
2019 concludes with 2019. A mixed bag with some brilliant songwriting and questionable re-imagining of classics. Sounds about right.